Jeweler Ebenezer Akakpo is always looking for ways to innovate and donate.
From earrings and rings bearing Ghanaian symbols to water purifiers and tumblers, Akakpo designs, creates and produces their items in their one-on-one workshop at Cumberland Mills in Westbrook.
He retail and wholesale his work online. Sales of a number of its products benefit nonprofit organizations, including a drinking water group and a legal organization that helps people obtain U.S. citizenship. He is currently working on a line of water bottles for the benefit of Black Lives Matter.
Through his work, Akakpo, 45, tries to make connections between his birthplace, Ghana, and his adopted home in Maine, he said.
A desire to create and learn more about computer technology that was emerging in the 1990s, he said, drove him from Ghana to Italy and eventually to Maine. He now lives in South Portland.
Akakpo recently appeared on “Elevating Voices,” a Greenlight Maine and Bath Savings Bank television show that features business owners of color in the state.
“I always wanted to be an architect like my father, but one day he said there were enough architects,” Akakpo told the American Journal.
“My father explained to me years later that as an architect you get paid by the government, so when the government changes you don’t get paid. He didn’t want that for me, ”he said.
“In the end, what piqued my interest was both the jewelry,” he said, and “how you can combine it with technology”.
‘Possibilities with unlimited jewelry’
In the mid-1990s, he was apprenticed to a jeweler in Ghana, before entering a jewelry making program in Florence, Italy. Eventually, he applied to the Maine Art Institute, now the Maine College of Art, on the advice of a returning teacher in Ghana. His intention, he said, was to learn how to use technology to make his jewelry designs a reality.
Jewelry as a medium allows him to use his artistic talents as well as other skills, such as technical drawing, which he acquired while learning architecture in his youth.
“It seemed like the possibilities with jewelry were endless,” he said.
His work really started to take shape once he was in Maine, he said, and after spending some time at the Rochester Institute of Technology, learning more about how to combine programming. computer with jewelry making equipment. He could now not only design jewelry, but also produce it.
Former Maine College of Art professor Kate Wolf, who now runs a jewelry-making school, Kate Wolf Design, and owns jewelry-making tool company Wolf Tools, recalls Akakpo as one of the best students she had.
“In the second half, he was on fire. Every project he did twice, while the other students struggled to complete each project he did it twice and did it better than everyone else ”, said Wolf. “He had a real lead to being a flawless person, and has a very good eye for design.
When he was younger, Akakpo was interested in designing and selling high-end jewelry and accessories, but as he got older and seeing how technology could change things, he took it to heart.
“What struck me was to realize that with high-end products, it’s only really accessible to 10% of the world’s population,” he said.
He wanted to design products for those “most people classify as poor,” he said.
He designed a water purification system to take back to Ghana, where his neighbors had faced unsafe water quality, but it was too expensive for most of them.
This is where the motifs for which her jewelry is now known, traditional Ghanaian symmetrical line patterns, came into play.
“I had noticed that people wore these symbols in jewelry,” he said. “What I did was I made the designs and I had a business (making them) that I sold to raise money for these purifiers,” Akakpo said.
Although he no longer works on the purification system, his work, whether on textiles, mugs, earrings or rings, still features the same designs from his country of origin, and they are have proven to be popular.
“A by-product of determination”
Wolf is not surprised that Akakpo was able to use his skills in so many ways to benefit those around him.
“He is expansive in what he is ready to undertake, to explore, decides to master. I think a lot of what he’s done is a by-product of his determination and not being afraid to work hard, ”she said.
Each of his Ghanaian designs emphasizes a specific mood or concept that the wearer might want to emulate more or achieve, such as strength and endurance, he said. He also noticed that national trends play a role in which models are the most popular.
“It has been interesting. When Trump was elected, the most popular conceptions were hope and patience. Since Biden, the most common conceptions have been unity and peace, ”Akakpo said. “It’s interesting how we can see what people are feeling based on what they are buying. “
Now he is working on a series of stainless steel water bottles featuring different Ghanaian designs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement with the proceeds going to the organization.
“For me, it’s always about innovating, finding ways to find solutions with what we have,” he said.
To learn more or discover his work, visit https://www.akakpo.com.